Saturday, May 19, 2007

Stone Age Economics and the Religion of the Left: What Would Jesus Bankroll? (5.24.09)

Susannah asks, "What is your take on ostensibly religious left-wingers" and "how they come by their horizontality?" In her experience, "anytime I meet a Christian who is left-oriented in their politics, it invariably stems from their low view of divine revelation. Others are downright hostile to scripture and attempt to deconstruct it. Yet others use wretchedly sloppy hermeneutics."

This is a very complex question, in part because the world is so very different today than it was 2000 years ago or even 100 years ago. At least the modern world is. One of the the reasons human beings have always had difficulty understanding economics is that they are exceedingly temporo-centric, and do not appreciate the much larger trends at any given time.

To cite just one glaring example, when Marx was writing his critique of industrial capitalism in the mid 19th century, living standards were finally rising after hundreds, and I suppose, thousands, of years of stagnation. Workers were finally rising above subsistence levels and beginning to be able to purchase necessities and eventually luxuries that would have been completely unavailable to them in the past.

In short, the means of creating unlimited wealth was not really stumbled upon by human beings until the rise of industrial capitalism. Human beings had finally discovered the key to economic growth, which came down to individual liberty, free markets, strong private property rights, sound money, and the rule of law.

And even then, it took several hundred more years to tame the "boom or bust" cycle, to the point that people no longer expect economic recessions, much less, depressions. It is now as if people imagine that unlimited economic growth and prosperity is the norm instead of an extraordinary deviation from the past. And with that, a sense of entitlement is nurtured, which in turn is rooted in what the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein called constitutional envy.

As I have written before, I believe envy must have had some evolutionary utility, or else it wouldn't have survived the process of natural selection. Since 99% of human evolution took place in small bands of hunter-gatherers, my view is that envy must have ultimately served the purpose of group cohesiveness.

Human beings could not possibly have survived as individuals, but only as part of a group. Therefore, anything that promoted the fitness of the group is likely to have been strongly reinforced. In a small group, it would have obviously been detrimental for one member to horde all of the resources, so we might say that envy is a mechanism that is actually selected by evolution in order to maintain our intrinsic communism. In other words, communism is our default state (as seen in our immediate families), whereas certain traits and habits of mind associated with capitalism must be learned, among them, trust of the stranger, the tamping down of envy, and a focus on the future instead of the present.

Back when I was writing my book and trying to assimilate as much world history as I could in a short period of time, one of the more provocative books I came across was one called From Plato to Nato: The Idea of the West and its Opponents. Gress believes that we have been misled by scholars who, because they live in the abstract world of thought, overvalue their own ideas. As such, they came up with the idea of the "grand narrative" of Western history extending back to its roots in ancient Greece.

But Gress believes that such critical ideas as liberty, democracy, and the free market were not so much ideas as behaviors that people lived out and only later reflected upon, in the manner, say, of Adam Smith. In other words, no one invented capitalism, or liberty or democracy, and that's sort of the point. These things had to first be lived and experienced in order to be valued.

I think we can understand Gress's point in analyzing the difficulty of transplanting "the idea of freedom" to the Middle East. Frankly -- and this is a little alarming to contemplate -- you can't just unproblematically transplant such an idea, because it is a value rooted in centuries of collective experience. I remember Dennis Prager discussing this on his radio program, and it came as a bit of a jolt to me. Like President Bush, I had had it in my mind that the desire for liberty was a universal human wish, something built into us. Therefore, all you have to do is "give" it to people, and that will be that.

Quite the opposite. Liberty is not a built in -- much less universal -- value, and I think you can see how this is a major part of understanding the motivations -- or shall we say, the deep structure -- of leftism. Classical liberals wonder why leftists do not value freedom, but they shouldn't. Rather, the question is why we do value it, because it is an obvious aberration in the human race. Most humans value security over liberty, predictability over change, conformity over individuality, and authority over self-rule. So when we see that leftists hate freedom and progress but love authority and comformity, we should not be the least bit surprised, for it is true of most rank-and-foul humans.

To finish up with Prager's thought, he noted that it was God who wanted humans to have freedom, not humans. For the vast majority of human beings, liberty is not a particularly important value, much less the most important one. They would just as soon barter it away for security, as they have done in western Europe. Once you understand this, then much about the left begins to make sense. In Europe, we can see how the welfare state puts in place a system of incentives that creates a new kind of enfeebled man, but that's not exactly correct. In reality, it simply reveals man for what he is -- a lazy, frightened, selfish, superstitious, instinct-loving and lowdown rascal. Leftism aims low and always reaches its target.

Only liberty unleashes the possibility of man and reveals what man can be, as an alternative to the unimpressive specter of what he is.

Much of this is laid out quite succinctly by Robert A. Sirico in the latest edition of the Hillsdale College Imprimis. The entire article is well worth reading, but I will attempt to summarize some of the key points. Sirico points out that leftism was not always the anti-progressive, anti-human movement it has become. Rather, it began with fairly noble aspirations, especially when we remember that the means of creating wealth were not at all well understood at the time. As such, the early socialists naively thought that socialism could achieve what capitalism could not:

"The core of the old socialist hope was a mass prosperity that would free all people from the burden of laboring for others and place them in a position to pursue higher ends, such as art and philosophy, in a conflict-free society."

But there was the problem of human temporo-centrism alluded to above: "The Marxist prediction of a revolution that would bring about this good society rested on the assumption that the condition of the working classes would grow ever worse under capitalism. But by the early twentieth century it was clear that this assumption was completely wrong. Indeed, the reverse was occurring: As wealth grew through capitalist means, the standard of living of all was improving."

That should have been the end of socialism, but it wasn't. And that is precisely when it transitioned from something that could at least be defended on rational or humanitarian grounds to a substitute religion. And again, it is specifically not a new religion, but a resurrection of mankind's default religion. Leftism is actually the abstract articulation of the "economic psychology" of Stone Age man. There is nothing new about it, which is why we see so much "born again paganism" associated with it -- the cult of the body, the exaltation of the senses, barbaric art forms, the vapid mystagogy of the "new age," etc.

What was truly new and progressive were all of the massive changes wrought by the unfettered free market:

"Historians now realize that even in the early years of the Industrial Revolution, workers were becoming better off. Prices were falling, incomes rising, health and sanitation improving, diets becoming more varied, and working conditions constantly improving. The new wealth generated by capitalism dramatically lengthened life spans and decreased child mortality rates. The new jobs being created in industry paid more than most people could make in agriculture. Housing conditions improved. The new heroes of society came from the middle class as business owners and industrialists displaced the nobility and gentry in the cultural hierarchy."

In light of everything that had gone before, this was truly a miracle. But one of the less flattering characteristics of human beings is that there is no gift so miraculous, no grace so bountiful, that they cannot take it for granted. As such, another trait of the leftist -- as we all know -- is the conspicuous absence of gratitude, for gratitude is another spiritual value that does not come naturally to human beings. In one sense it must be cultivated, but in another sense it is a spiritual reward, since it frees one from the painful constitutional envy that motivates the leftist -- the ouch they can't stop screeching.

Put it this way: the "glass" of wealth is exponentially larger than it has ever been, and it is growing all the time. But no matter how big it gets, the leftist is condemned to seeing it as half full and obsessing over the fact that someone else has more. Thus,

"In the midst of all this change, many people seemed only to observe an increase in the number of the poor. In a paradoxical way, this too was a sign of social progress, since so many of these unfortunate people might have been dead in past ages. But the deaths of the past were unseen and forgotten, whereas current poverty was omnipresent. Meanwhile, as economic development expanded in the nineteenth century, there was a dramatic growth of a middle class that now had access to consumer goods once available only to kings -- not to mention plenty of new goods being created by the engine of capitalism."

Needless to day -- at least for a classical liberal -- "The poor didn’t get poorer because the rich were getting richer (a familiar socialist refrain even today) as the socialists had predicted. Instead, the underlying reality was that capitalism had created the first societies in history in which living standards were rising in all sectors of society. In a sense, free market capitalism was coming closest to realizing what Marx himself had imagined: 'the all round development of individuals' in which 'the productive forces will also have increased' and 'the springs of social wealth will flow more freely.'"

Well, that's about all I have time for today, which could be a day to test the Gagdad Spirit. Mrs. G. is going away overnight on a secret mission of the utmost importance, leaving the boys to fend for themselves for the first time ever. This will be interesting. Would it be wrong to just place a large pizza in the back yard and allow Future Leader to run around naked all day? I mean, if it's good enough for me....

Friday, May 18, 2007

Freedom, Virtue, and Alignment With the Real

It is really a question of who represents the "reality based community." It's as simple -- and complex -- as that. Continuing along the lines of yesterday's post about prudence, Pieper notes the truism that the precondition for any kind of adequate judgment about anything -- say, dealing with the reconstruction of an automobile accident -- is "to see the events the way they really occurred." Failing this, "all further considerations become futile," for "the precondition for every ethical decision is the perception and examination of reality."

But this is only half of the process, since adequation to reality is necessary but not sufficient to constitute prudence: "the other half consists in 'translating' our knowledge of reality into decision and action." Thus, prudence "is the art of making the right decision based on the corrsponding reality -- no matter whether justice, courage or temperence is at stake."

Now, in the end, there are only two antithetical philosophical stances which go by various names: realism/materialism, or idealism/empiricism, or essentialism/existentialism. Thus, if one of these fundamental stances is not in accord with reality -- and they cannot both be equally true -- then most everything else that flows from the stance is going to be poisoned by that initial error.

Let's take Christopher Hitchens, for example. He is a hardcore materialist, empiricist, existentialist, and flatlander extraordinairre. He denies even the possibility of any higher reality. But if this higher reality does exist -- and I insist that it does -- then there is going to be something fundamentally flawed about Hitchens' judgment. It won't mean that it is impossible for him to believe things that are true. That would be absurd. However, it will often mean that he doesn't necessarily believe them because they are true. Thus his prudence will be "accidental" rather than "essential," i.e., flowing from the nature of things.

Likewise, since Hitchens and I may be fairly described as philosophical opposites, most any convergence of our views will be accidental and not essential. Take the war on Islamo-fascism, for example. Many people were surprised by this lifelong Marxist's eloquent support of the liberation of Iraq. However, being that he despises all forms of religiosity in principle, then it should not really be a surprise that he particularly despises Islam. And based upon his recent comments about Jerry Falwell, we can see that he hardly harbors less animosity toward evangelical Christians, since he regards them as intrinsically vulgar frauds and deceitful crooks -- dangerous, superstitious, abusive of women and children, etc. In short, they deviate from what Hitchens regards as reality, so they must be bad. In this regard, Pieper and Hitchens agree about prudence following from alignment with reality.

What is more difficult to account for is why Islam gets a pass from most leftists, even while they share Hitchens' animosity toward proper religion, such as Christianity. But for most leftists, there is an internalized implicit hierarchy of victimization that generally corresponds with skin color rather than religion or ideology. Therefore, darker skinned religious savages trump lighter skinned white European Christian males every time, the latter of whom are at the top of the heap in terms of victimizers. That is their "reality," so their judgments -- at risk of abusing the word -- follow.

Thus, it would not be exactly correct to say that Christopher Hitchens is on my side in the war, since he would go after me with similar gusto once the Islamists were out of the way -- just as the Islamists went after America as soon as the Soviet Union was out of the way. In hindsight, we can see that it was folly to believe that we had earned any brownie points by helping Muslims liberate Afghanistan from communist tyranny, for they are not interested in American style liberty but Islamic tyranny. It is similar folly to believe that a man such as Hitchens could ever be our ally except tactically. We can only use him as a means to an end (benignly, of course) of which he confesses total ignorance, since it inheres in spiritual reality.

Likewise, Hitchens has his own "ends" (i.e., his idea of the "good," even if his philosophy forbids him from speaking of any transcendent moral reality) which do not correspond to American values. The American ideal is fundamentally grounded in a rightly ordered spiritual liberty with which we are endowed by our Creator, but Hitchens would presumably condemn us to some form of statist collectivism, since he remains a committed ideological leftist. Only one of us can be correct -- or even remotely correct -- about the source of our liberty. And with that very first step into "ontological space," innumerable implications follow, both personal and political.

For example, it is impossible for an American -- if he is to remain an American in any meaningfully spiritual sense -- to believe in "affirmative action," or government imposed racial discrimination. The idea of granting the state the power to sort people into racial categories and dole out special favors to this or that group is strictly inconceivable on the American view of what constitutes reality -- since it runs afoul of the intelligible spiritual reality that all men are created equal. Specifically, they are created vertically equal by their Creator, not forced to be horizontally equal by the state. The latter is tyranny, not liberty. But only if you believe in spiritual liberty to begin with.

In fact, once you eliminate higher reality, then you will find that the most inexplicable leftist belief suddenly makes perfect sense. In other words, no matter how rash, immature and imprudent they may look, leftists are "prudent" within the constraints of their ability to know reality.

For example, the other day while mountain biking in the hills, I came across a beautiful deer. She was obviously very frightened that I had entered her space, and instantly froze before bounding away with remarkable speed. From my point of view, that wasn't very prudent, since I would have loved nothing more than to approach the deer and scratch her belly. But from the deer's more limited point of view, its actions made perfect sense. It lives in the dichotomous world of predator/prey, and I fell into the former category by default. (Speaking of deer, headlights, and leftists... )

Similarly, the leftist lives in a world of absence, or lack, at its center. As I have written before, I believe this is an ineluctable result of their alienation from spiritual reality, which they translate to material or economic lack. Thus, they believe -- religiously, I might add, since it flies in the face of economic reality -- in the notion of a limited amount of wealth, or a "zero sum" economic model. And because the amount of wealth is limited, it is unfair that some should have more than others. Therefore, since there's presumably no way to "make more wealth," then a heavy-handed state must come in and redistribute it in a manner leftist politicians deem fair.

It all makes perfect sense, except that it makes no sense, since these views are not in accord with economic reality. As a result, imprudent economic policies are guaranteed, whether it is the government taking more of the money you have earned, or forcing businesses to pay people more than they're worth, or forcing landlords to charge less in rent than the market dictates, or suing businesses because they have the wrong racial or gender mix, etc.

Once again, Master Sowell offered a lucid editorial yesterday, in which he lays out what he believes is the "first wrong step" of the leftist, which is the presumption that it is possible for any human being to have more than a tiny fraction of the information embodied in the free market -- the market being the sine qua non of a complex information system. In a free market, the "price" of a product or service is only the end result of countless little independent decisions that have been made at every stage of production. In light of this, the idea that price is simply a static entity that can be understood, much less imposed, from the top down, is quite patently absurd. It is a bizarre, medieval superstition that goes way beyond anything Jerry Falwell could ever come up with. And yet, millions of leftists the world over believe it, including, one presumes, Christopher Hitchens. No self-respecting Marxist could believe otherwise.

In keeping with today's theme, Sowell writes that "Radically different conclusions about a whole range of issues have been common for centuries.... My own view is that differences in bedrock assumptions underlying ideas play a major role in determining how people differ in what policies, principles or ideologies they favor."

For example, "If you start from a belief that the most knowledgeable person on earth does not have even one percent of the total knowledge on earth, that shoots down social engineering, economic central planning, judicial activism and innumerable other ambitious notions favored by the political left."

I should just stop now, for that pretty much sums it up.... Nevertheless,

"If no one has even one percent of the knowledge currently available, not counting the vast amounts of knowledge yet to be discovered, the imposition from the top of the notions favored by elites convinced of their own superior knowledge and virtue is a formula for disaster." (And just wait until the catastrophic economic ideas of radical environmentalists are implemented.)

Marxist that he is, Christopher Hitchens spent the 1980s attacking Ronald Reagan -- the great liberator from communist tyranny -- in the same savage way he recently desecrated Falwell's dead body. Therefore, if we were as temperamentally choleric as Hitchens, we would be justified, I suppose, in using the same juvenile terms to describe him that he used to describe Falwell (actually, much worse, because at least Falwell never aligned himself with a genocidal ideology, as has Hitchens) such as "slimy toad" or "give Falwell an enema, and you could bury him in a matchbox." (Give Hitchens an enema, and you'd have to figure out which end to start at, says Dupree.)

But Hitchens is a leftist. He is a better person than Falwell -- which is what the santimonious left always believes about itself, irrespective of how they actually conduct their lives and treat other human beings. As Sowell writes, what leftists share "is the notion that knowledgeable and virtuous people like themselves have both a right and a duty to use the power of government to impose their superior knowledge and virtue on others."

Intelligent people who have no contact with higher reality are without question the most dangerous people on earth. Because of their intellectual pride, they are prone to overestimate the abilities of their puny intellect, as if they are fit to pronounce on all manner of things about which they possess no knowledge at all. There is no ignorance like educated ignorance, as it is the recipe for imprudent action on a mass scale. Which is why William F. Buckley famously remarked that he would prefer to be governed by the first 100 names in the Boston phone book than the Harvard faculty.

To savor all things as they really are is to truly taste wisdom --Josef Pieper

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Being Truth vs. Doing the Lie

Remember after 9-11, when Bill Maher got into some trouble for claiming that the Islamo-nazis, whatever else they were, were courageous? After all, anyone who is willing to fly a plane into a building must be very brave.

But this only goes to show what has happened to language and its relationship to intelligible, which is to say, higher, realities. For example, the cardinal virtues -- prudence, justice, courage, and temperance -- represent one such intelligible reality. But children and even (or shall we say, especially) college students are no longer taught about intelligible realities. Rather, they are specifically taught to have a cynical and jaundiced attitude toward these fanciful cognitive atavisms of a less enlightened age. (Speaking of which, Dr. Sanity has a wonderful post this morning on the Evolution of Education into Indoctrination.)

Therefore, it is probably no surprise that the cynical, sneering Bill Maher would conflate courage and recklessness -- for that is what courage is when it is exercised in the absence of prudence, which is to say, judgment. Otherwise, why would courage be a virtue? Courage easily becomes demonic if not grounded in truth, or being. At best, it becomes neutral -- say, someone like Evel Knievel, who only hurt himself with his daredevil stunts.

But we are fighting entire anti-civilizations whose so-called bravery is the worst kind of evil in action -- say, the depraved Palestinians, who are utterly lacking in temperance, prudence, and justice, to say the least. Therefore, most anything they do is going to be profoundly evil, whether it is "courageously" blowing themselves up, "justly" engaging in a farcical democracy, or "prudently" educating their children.

But the same holds true of our own left, who may not engage in literal suicide bombing (although they certainly ally themselves with those who do, such as the Palestinians), but whose philosophy is a kind of intellectual suicide. I mean this literally, for it is death to the intellect properly so-called, as exemplified by the case of Bill Maher above.

This is why, no matter how "intelligent" Maher is, he is simultaneously stuck on stupid, since his higher intellect has been purged by his disordered passions. One could say the very same of celebrity journalist Christopher Hitchens, whose bilioligerent psyche has been completely hijacked by his liver. No, I am not speaking of his dependence on alcohol, but of his irascible and choleric soul -- another intelligible reality for those with ears to hear it.

Who actually listens to the content of what this drunken ghoul says when he's aggressively mutilating yet another recently deceased body? I was no big fan of Falwell's public persona, but Hitchens' grotesque and tasteless comments transparently reveal only the state of his own bitter and petty soul. What a necrophiliac, a "lover of death." One actually feels the vicarious embarrassment for him that he is incapable of feeling toward himself. In this regard, the shameless individual is another variant of the reckless person.

Bill Mahar would probably consider it another form of courage -- of "speaking truth to power" -- to use the gift of speech in such a recklessly vile manner, but that is what the left habitually does. We recently touched on the importance of passion, but again, if one's passions are not rightly ordered, they can rapidly become channelled toward great evil.

This is why it is not accurate to say the left is merely "passionate," which is what one might assume of their many varieties of compulsive "activist." Rather, they are specifically intoxicated, or drunk with passion. They have the same native passion as anyone else, but it is utterly lacking in prudence -- indeed, celebrates the absence of prudence as a kind of liberation -- which in fact it is: from the vertical. It is a centrifugal liberation that leads down and out, to the terminal moraine of the untutored senses, which empty into the meaningless sea of barbarism.

You might say that prudence consists of doing the truth. As Josef Pieper writes, it is "the mother of the other virtues," since justice, courage and temperance can only exist because of it: "Prudence is the precondition for all that is ethically good."

This is undoubtedly why leftism is fundamentally the philosophy of the young and immature ("skulls full of mush"), the terminally tenured (who have often never had to set foot outside the fantasyland of leftist wackademia), and the very stupid (for leftism is a coalition of the over- and undereducated, the latter ceding their power to the former for the mutual benefit of each, i.e., the elites get to feel good about themselves while the grazing multitude gets to have its constitutional envy translated into political policy). Not to mention assorted misfits, deviants, outsiders, cosmic losers, and the implacably embittered, who are all important constituents of the left.

Thus, leftism inevitably tends toward "doing the lie," or putting the lie into action. Lying has always existed, but lies can only cause limited damage when they are confined to individual heads. But somewhere along the line, we allowed this country to go off the rails and accede to the malignant collectivist fantasies of the left. Their takeover of academia, the mass media, most all professional groups, and most of the permanent structure of government is quite literally a form of (collective) body-snatching.

Let's take a very obvious example, the two recent GOP debates, the first one hosted by a leftist MSM outfit, the second by the non-leftist Fox. The MSNBC debate was a farce and a joke, presided over by the fundamentally unserious buffoon, Chris Matthews. The second was sober, serious, and substantive. But is is no surprise as to why. Again, the left is intoxicated. Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann are loud and drunken clowns. There is no "sobriety," much less gravity, about them.

Naturally, the Democrat party refuses to have a debate hosted by Fox, any more than Christopher Hitchens would enter detox, for it would expose them as the unserious twits that they are. This would also explain the otherwise inexplicable affinity the left has for that institution that has perfected "doing the lie," the U.N. For what is the U.N. but a den full of liars and therefore tyrants, thieves and murderers? Someone who threatens to courageously speak truth to this demonic power -- e.g., John Bolton -- is himself demonized by the left. This is no coincidence, but an inevitable result of the left's assault on intelligible realities. The more someone speaks truth, the more they must be demonized by the left.

This is what is actually behind their effort to resurrect the so-called "fairness doctrine," which is simply an attempt by them to extinguish a little non-leftist light that has entered the media in the form of talk radio. They cannot actually succeed in their satanic project of destroying truth -- which is to say, intelligible reality -- but they can certainly put up road blocks to delay or prevent its discovery.

One huge roadblock the left has erected in the path of Truth is called "higher education." Political correctness is simply the left's means of foreclosing intelligible reality and their "muscle" for ensuring doctrinal enforcement. Furthermore, their attack on religion is nothing more or less than the attempt to oust a competing religion, not religion as such, for no one is more of a loony religious fanatic than a gaia-worshipping greenhouse gasbag or a ranting neo-Marxist hack such as Christopher Hitchens.

As Pieper writes, "to do what in reality is right and good presupposes some knowledge about reality; if you do not know how it is with things and how they stand, you are in concreto (practically) unable to choose what is ethically good. The mere 'good intention,' the desire to be just, for instance, does not suffice at all."

But as we know all too well, this is what the left is all about: good intentions. However, at the same time, their good intentions are rooted in an ontology that denies the Real, which is to say, the objective truth of intelligible realities -- for example, objective morality. Instead, it is grounded in an explicit philosophy of moral relativism, multiculturalism, and totolerantarian "diversity."

Therefore, the left inescapably embodies the misosophy of Doing the Lie, which can only redound to great evil, including the abolition of man -- since it is founded on this very abolition. Which is not very courageous, but very C.S.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Roget's Theosaurus and the Tickwitted Illusion of Sweet Fanny Adams

Perhaps it's as simple as Zero and One. Either you have a metaphysics of the One or you embrace the nihilism of the zilch, the nada, the bupkis...

Hmm, here's an interesting little factoid. I was just looking up synonyms for zero in my thesaurus, and I see that the very first two categories are Existence and Nonexistence, followed, appropriately enough, by Substantiality and Insubstantiality, then Intrinsicality and Extrinsicality. Thus, the first three pages of the thesaurus tell us pretty much all we need to know about theology, metaphysics, and ontology.

For, it is written, in the beginning was 1. EXISTENCE, or being, essence, presence, substantiality, reality, actuality, factuality, authenticity, not a dream, the truth of the matter, what's what, the nitty gritty, absolute, self-evident, inescapable, and indisputable fact, brass tacks, self-existence, uncreated being, noncontingent existence, aseity, and others.

How true, which is to say, correct, valid, sound, accurate, well-grounded, logical, veridical, inerrant, self-consistent, cogent, authoritative, uninvented, unadulterated, square, dead right, bang-on, straight-up-and-down, and honest-to-God, for Being implies Truth.

Indeied, In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was EXISTENCE. Or, you might say that In the Beginning God created BEING and NONBEING, or, to be precise, pulled BEING out of his own ASEITY, or beyond being.

What about the alternative, which is to say, 2. NONEXISTENCE? Let's see, we have nonbeing, nothingness, emptiness, vacuity, "the intense inane" (Shelley), unreality, negation, negativity, zero, absence, goose egg, not a whit, not a hint, not a blessed one, just Sweet Fanny Adams. In short. "ain't nobody here but us leftists."

What are the implications of this philosophy of zero, this metaphysics of nonbeing? According to Roget, it is to not exist, to be absent or lacking, to be annihilated, destroyed, eradicated and wiped out, to vanish, to be no more and leave no trace, to disappear, evaporate, melt away, die out, pass out of the picture, peter out, perish, circle the drain, go kaput, and just plain die.

This is indeed the fate of the leftist. In fact, he admits as much. Why then are they such chronic whiners? If their absence is intrinsic, why do they complain about it so much? I guess that's why. As we said yesterday, leftism is the attempt to use horizontal politics to fill a vertical hole of their own creation. They are self-inflicted victims of their own nothingness. Envy takes care the rest.

All because you never allowed yourself to exist by aligning yourself with the Real, the Absolute, and the Intrinsic. Rather, you made yourself nonexistent, unreal, imaginary, fanciful, unsubstantial, illusory, and without being. Which is to say, you made yourself. But nobody made you.


"What was that?"

"That was your life, mate."

"Oh, that was quick, do I get another?"

"Sorry mate, that's your lot."
--Sillyloquy of Basil Fawlty

Again, how true this all is -- which is to say, how false -- or mistaken, erroneous, fallacious, self-contradictory, flawed, deviant, heretical, abberant, perverted, distorted, misconstrued, and deluded. What a blunder, slipup, oversight, misstep, faux pas, gaffe, stupidity, boo-boo, blooper, boner, screw-up, and howler.

For how could Being not exist? How dense does one have to be to postulate such an absurdity? What kind of fool, schmuck, jackass, clown, doodle, ignoramus, milksop, mooncalf, softheaded lunatic figure of fun could believe this? What sort of chump, booby, klutz, dingbat, saphead, mutt, jerk-off, asshole, goof, schlemiel, galoot, dolt, dunce, clod, ninnyhammer, looby, noddy, yokel, jobbernowl, golem, driveling nincompoop, tickwitted dope, lamebrained lummox, dumb cluck, buffleheaded, beefwitted, noodleheaded, cabbage brained, pumpkin headed, addlepated, blubberheaded clodhopper and flibbertigibbet could think such a thing?

Frankly, you probably have to be crazy, which is to say, loco, daft, moon-struck, unhinged, tetched, not all there -- you know, a little daffy, dotty, buggy, barmy, bananas, bonkers, crackers, loopy, cuckoo, slaphappy, flipped, gaga, haywire, off the trolley, round the bend, minus some buttons. Raving mad, possessed, frothing at the mouth, amok, berserk, babbling, wild-eyed, incoherent.

You must be a certifiable One Cosmos troll.

Enough of that. What is "nothing," anyway, and why are there people who believe in it? Schuon writes of nothingness that it is, "on the one hand, an intellectual notion and, on the other hand, a cosmic tendency; this notion of nothingness is identical with that of impossibility; that is to say, nothingness is total impossibility, whereas there do exist relative impossibilities, namely those which represent situations modifiable in principle."

So true nothingness cannot really exist except in the minds of nihilists. Therefore, they know of what they speak, since they themselves are the absurd "possibility of nothing," which is just one of the diverse possibilities of Something. The nihilist is just a self-unmade man, or man unmade, to be exact.

Schuon continues:

"The notion of 'nothing' is essentially a reference -- obviously negative -- to something possible or existent, otherwise it would be meaningless and even inconceivable. Indeed, 'nothing' indicates by definition the absence of something: it excludes one or many objects, or all objects, according to context; to speak of an intrinsic 'nothingness,' of a nothing in itself, without reference to the things which it excludes, would be a contradiction in terms. When a receptacle is filled and then emptied, there is a difference; now this difference is a reality, otherwise no one would ever complain about being robbed. If this 'nothing' were in itself a 'nothingness' -- if it had no 'referential' character -- there would be no difference between presence and absence, plenitude and vacuity, existence and inexistence; and every thief could argue that the 'nothing' he produced in someone’s purse does not exist; the word 'nothing' would be devoid of meaning just as the nothingness is devoid of content.... an intrinsic nothingness cannot concretely be opposed to anything or be affected by anything in any way."

So EXISTENCE and NONEXISTENCE aren't actually opposites. Rather, the one is real, the other entirely fanciful, an absurdity, an impossibility, a... never mind.

Similarly, as Will was saying the other day about the "ether," or the spiritual substance of reality, in the absence of such a metaphysical category, the cosmos makes no sense at all. For, "space, if it were an absolute emptiness -- if it did not in practice coincide with ether -- could not comprise distance and separation, for a nothingness added to another nothingness -- if this were conceivable without absurdity -- could not produce a distance."

Now, back to the ZERO and the ONE. Schuon notes that "the difference between 1 and 2 is relative, but the difference between 1 and 0 can be termed absolute..." Which is to say, "A thing cannot exist half-way, either it exists or it does not exist; consequently, since there is something absolute about existence in relation to inexistence," this speaks to "the whole miracle of creation."

Or, put it this way: "When one, two or three out of four candles are extinguished, the difference in luminosity is relative; but when the last one is extinguished, the difference is total, for it is that between light and darkness. This is what allows negative expressions such as 'the Void' (Shunya), 'not this, not this' (neti neti), and other terms of the kind to be applied to pure Being, and a fortiori to Beyond-Being. All apophatic theology stems from this principle of terminology."

Ah ha! So NOTHING does exist. In fact, it is not the negation of BEING, but the ABSOLUTE EXISTENCE of the God-beyond-being, who must exist -- and if so, must coincide with the sovereign good.

"The idea of 'being' positively implies reality, and restrictively manifestation; we say 'restrictively' because manifestation or existence represents a 'less' or a limitation in relation to the Principle which is pure Being. In signifying reality, the idea of 'being' evokes ipso facto the 'good' and also the 'more,' hence quality and quantity; but above all it evokes 'presence.' As for the opposite idea of 'nothingness,' it implies first of all the 'absence' of being, or impossibility, and more relatively the absence of determinate things; it also implies, by derivation and by analogy, the phenomenon of 'less' and, in another respect, that of 'evil.' But this idea can also be applied, quite paradoxically, to the transcendent or principial order: from the standpoint of the manifested world -- hence from the standpoint of existence in the restricted sense of the term -- all that transcends this world and consequently is free from existential limitations, is 'nothingness.'”

Which was Petey's whole point in beginning -- and ending -- and beginning -- the Coonifesto with the word nothing. Not to signify negation, non-being, nothingness, Sweet Fanny Adams, or some other addle-pated hooey. Rather, this is the infinite gap between the first and last Word of existence, which is to finneganally say,

... nothing,
a formless void without mind or life,
a shadow spinning before the beginning over a silent static sea,
unlit altar of eternity, fathomless vortex of the Infinite Zero.
Darkest night, dreamless sleep:
Outside in. Spacetimematterenergy.
No beforeafter, nobodaddy, no mamafestation, nothing but neti.
One brahman deathless breathing breathless,
darkness visible the boundless all.
Unknown origin prior to time and space,
fount of all being, unborn thus undying,
beginning and end of all impossibility,
empty plenum and inexhaustible void.
Hallow, noumena!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Sinking Into Nothing Under the Weight of Progressive Principles (5.04.10)

Schuon has written that, given the principial order of this or any cosmos (for a cosmos is literally an order), there are three possible "situations or tendencies" for human beings: "firstly, conformity to the Principle, or the 'upward' tendency; secondly, the expansive affirmation of possibilities, hence 'horizontal' -- or, if one prefers, 'passional' -- existence; and thirdly, non-conformity to the Principle, and thus the 'downward' tendency, the illusory movement in the direction of a 'nothingness' that is nonexistent, obviously, but is possible as a negative and subversive point of reference."

Obviously, the Coon way of life corresponds with the "upward tendency." For a Coon, this is the only possible purpose and even justification for human existence, which is to say, transcendence of oneself in the journey back to our Source. One way I know I'm on the right track is if I am slightly embarrassed about where I was (vertically speaking), say, a year ago -- let alone, 10, or 20, or 30 years ago. I hope I can always say, "what an idiot I was for believing that!"

But if there is no vertical tendency, then there is no possibility of real growth (beyond mere biological development), much less conformity with Cosmic Truth, and thus, no need to ever feel shame or regret. Here we have struck on one of the great appeals of leftism. Imagine, for example, being Jane Fonda, and being so incapacitated by an absence of shame that one believes the same things at 70 that one believed at 30. Put another way, if a conscious person were Jane Fonda, how would one ever stop cringing at one's past behavior? Easy. By disabling shame. By becoming fixated down and back in developmental spacetime.

Likewise, imagine one day waking up from the awful dream of being Sean Penn. For that is what he is -- a particularly disturbing, even hideous, dream he is having (and which he can't help "sharing" with the rest of us). Most of us live in some version of this dream, or hellucination, at one time or another in our lives. But I would guess that all Coons can remember when something in them began to stir from the dream, since which time their life has been an ongoing process of further waking, or "realization."

This is a good word, since it is real-ization -- which is to say two things. First, conformity with Reality, which automatically creates the tension that makes the "upward tendency" possible. And second, the slow conversion of oneself into something real and solid -- indeed, something eternal, or a self fit for eternity.

Looked at in this way, life consists of building a vehicle -- no, that's too mechanical -- of conceiving, gestating, and giving birth to a "celestial self" or astral body fit for vertical travel. Likewise, to fail to do this is not just to waste one's life, which is tragedy enough. Rather, it is to waste eternity, which is worse than a tragedy. It is plain careless.

It is no surprise that one of the central passions of the left is abortion -- it is an unthinking "way of life" for them, which is to say, a way of death. This is simply a horizontal reflection of the "astral abortion" of the leftist's life. Yes, perhaps this sounds harsh, but I am not saying anything that the leftist does not explicitly believe. From where they stand, they would mock and dismiss the Coon point of view as a fantasy at best and probably a pathology, which is fine. I am wasting my life on "spiritual fantasies," or something like that.

As I said yesterday, I have no objection to this characterization. I am not offended. Indeed, this is what horizontal man must think, given his admitted horizontality. How could he think otherwise? Like a man living in two-dimensional flatland, he is a rock-solid realist, insofar as he is innocent of any knowledge of the third dimension. He hears of people who speak of cones, coons, and spheres, but he knows better, for reality is right there before his eyes, and every leftist knows that perception is reality.

But it is strictly incorrect to say that the leftist simply inhabits the horizontal, "passional" world alluded to by Schuon in the first paragraph. No. This world is relatively neutral, but has a naturally upward tendency if left alone, as per the physics of non-linear systems, i.e., chaos and complexity theories. This is why science and the free market lead to such miraculous progress if we simply leave them alone. As Adam Smith noted 230 years ago, the market is an almost magical way to transform man's inevitable passions into something that transcends them, but only if we get out of the way, which the leftist refuses to do, precisely.

This, of course, is why it is such a cosmic hoot to suggest that the left is a great respecter of science, much less, progress. Both the left and right have specific issues with science, issues that are a function of their respective relationships to principial reality. But at NRO the other day, Yuval Levin pointed out that the left "has a much more complicated set of problems with science that are explored far more rarely than those of the right":

"Scientific advance, for instance, is the great engine behind capitalism, and is in that respect responsible for much that the left has disliked about the west since the 18th century. Much of what progressives oppose is precisely progress. Science, extended beyond its appropriate bounds, is also the chief contemporary threat to our continued allegiance to the principle of human equality, which has been at the heart of the liberal worldview. Put simply, science seems to demonstrate we are not equal -- this after all is the problem many on the left had with The Bell Curve. Of course, it only seems that way if you take a very peculiar view of what the principle of equality actually is. We are equal not in our natural capacities -- obviously we are not all equally strong, or smart, or tall, or healthy -- but in our standing as human beings in relation to something higher than ourselves. But the left is no longer well equipped to offer that defense of equality, since it requires all manner of premises they have given up."

In short, human beings are equal only in the vertical sense. Obviously, I might add. But if you have jettisoned the entire realm of verticality, then you are reduced to trying to impose horizontal equality, which is simply another word for tyranny. And this is why the left is also so angry. They are perpetually aggrieved -- and basically incapable of true human happiness -- since they have converted the vertical "transcendence drive" into a horizontal "political drive" -- which only ends up pushing them further and further from the goal, which is to say, human reality (which may only be found in the vertical). This results in a kind of nagging existential pain that eats away at the leftist, an itch he can never scratch. Or it is something like "referred pain," in which a lumbar injury causes sciatica in the leg. Leftists are obviously in pain. They remind us of this constantly. They are the Party of Pain. They just have no idea where the pain is coming from.

Which is why leftism is the philosophy of anti-progress. Since it unapologetically sets itself up as the "revolutionary" (which is to say, compulsively reactionary) philosophy of "non-conformity to the Principle," then it is necessarily "centrifugal" in nature, if only because of the Cosmic Law of Gravity, i.e., the fall. In other words, from the Coon standpoint, you are either with us or with the errorists. Once you become truly committed to that first proudly false step in ontological space, then your cosmic fate is pretty much sealed. You become trapped in a seany new pigpenn from which you cannot escape except by waking up -- which involves the acute pain of realizing not only that you have wasted your own life, but that you have spent it doing great harm to others.

No wonder there are so many tenured leftists who have not taken a new cognitive imprint since 1968! The more time that passes, the more intense the pain of waking. One becomes, as Schuon has said, encased under a thick and impenetrable sheet of ice that builds and builds like a glacier, separating one from one's vertical source. Tenure, publications, awards, and academic prizes are piled on, until one sinks beneath the weight.

Again, unlike the netural but upwardly tending passion of science and the free market, the leftist's passion leads specifically downward. In an editorial today, Tom Sowell describes the problem with his typical lucidity:

"That people on the political left have a certain set of opinions, just as people do in other parts of the ideological spectrum, is not surprising. What is surprising, however, is how often the opinions of those on the left are accompanied by hostility and even hatred.... [F]or many on the left, indignation is not a sometime thing. It is a way of life.

"It is hard to think of a time when Karl Rove or Dick Cheney has even raised his voice but they are hated like the devil incarnate. There doesn't even have to be any identifiable individual to arouse the ire of the left. 'Tax cuts for the rich' is more than a political slogan. It is incitement to anger....

"But how can people work themselves into a lather over the fact that some taxpayers are able to keep more of the money they earned, instead of turning it over to politicians to dispense in ways calculated to get themselves re-elected?...

"Often it is an exercise in futility even to seek to find a principle behind the anger. For example, the left's obsession with the high incomes of corporate executives never seems to extend to equally high -- or higher -- incomes of professional athletes, entertainers, or best-selling authors like Danielle Steel....

"If it is hard to find a principle behind what angers the left, it is not equally hard to find an attitude. Their greatest anger seems to be directed at people and things that thwart or undermine the social vision of the left, the political melodrama starring the left as saviors of the poor, the environment, and other busybody tasks that they have taken on. It seems to be the threat to their egos that they hate. And nothing is more of a threat to their desire to run other people's lives than the free market and its defenders."

Exactly. What can one say except that the chronic anger and hatred of the left is indeed "principled," except, to be exact, it is, as Schuon put it, "in non-conformity to the Principle." Thus the inevitable downward trend of the leftist's passions -- including the "artistic passions" discussed in yesterday's post.

Remember, Coons are not Buddhists. We are hardly dispassionate. But our passion is always upwardly tending toward the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. We passionately love these with all our hearts, minds and souls, always bearing in mind that wisdom is the proper content of knowledge and beauty the appropriate object of love. Naturally, if everyone were this way -- which is an impossibility, if only because Dupree would be overwhelmed by the number of membership applications -- it would be paradise on earth, would it not?

Conversely, what if everyone were like Sean Penn? Or Alec Baldwin? Or Spike Lee? Or Randi Rhodes? Or Markos Moultsas? Or Al Sharpton? Or Hillary Clinton?

Not just "hell on earth," but the cosmic dimension of hell, precisely -- which is to say, the downward tendency personified, or the "many faces of Satan." Speaking metaphorically. Or so they think.

Iron and mud his nature's mingled stuff,
A little limited visionary brain
Cunning and skillful in its narrow vein,
A sentimental egoist, poor and rough....

This screaming orator with his strident tongue,
The prophet of a scanty fixed idea,
Plays now the leader of the human march....

But if its tenebrous empire were allowed,
Its mastery would prepare the dismal hour
When the Inconscient shall regain its right,
And man who emerged as Nature's conscious power,
Shall sink into the deep original night...
--Sri Aurobindo

Monday, May 14, 2007

Revelation and Other Babe Magnets

Ever since Einstein's revolution, it has been difficult to ask common sense questions of physics, such as "what kind of substance is the cosmos?" and "what sort of medium is it in?" Or, you can ask the question, but you will only get nonsensical answers. Well, not exactly nonsensical, but not fit for human consumption.

This is something Will touched on in his comments yesterday, and something that has been in the back of my mind for a while as an idea for a post, but I wasn't sure if I had the ability to translate Petey's pontifications into plain English. In fact, I'm still not sure.

But Will made some excellent points yesterday, which implicitly touch on how we have, in the last 100 years, essentially deferred the field of ontology to physicists, even though, if he is honest, the most brilliant quantum physicist doesn't really know what the hell is going on. In the end, he can only make inferences about reality that are strictly limited by the nature of small-r reason, which is a tool of the mind, not the totality thereof.

Popular books on quantum physics are a dime a dozen, but nearly all of them are marred by the confusion of method and ontology, i.e., what physicists may say of reality vs. the infinitely larger domain of what we may know of it. And when they speculate, it is almost always in a worthless, new-age sort of way, i.e., "you create reality." As always, the real Secret is that the Secret protects itself from such debased and deepaked bozos and hucksters -- and from trolls, by the way.

It's a cliche, but truly, to study ontology -- the nature of being -- with the scientific method is very much like undertaking a study of Shakespeare by analyzing the chemical properties of the ink and paper with which he wrote his plays. Here we can understand how method very much determines the content of what we see.

One is very aware of this in the field of psychology, since there are so many competing theories that attempt to map the mind. This is something I noticed very early on in graduate school, and it essentially leaves one with only three options. One, you can pick one particular theoretical orientation -- which is somewhat analogous to converting to a particular religion -- and essentially become a devotee (which I am not necessarily criticizing, BTW). Two, you can become a cynic and say that meaning is just arbitrary, and that we simply superimpose fanciful models on the mind that have no more substance than drawing lines in the ocean.

Or, you can attempt to make all of the theories make sense in light of a greater whole that contains many more dimensions than three or four. This was my approach, and in fact, I laid it out in my first scholarly publication back in 1991 (based on part of my doctoral dissertation) -- back when I was trying to be a scholar instead of whatever it is I am now.

In fact, even the course of my subsequent life reflects the reality I was attempting to convey in that first paper, in that I found that I could not possibly devote myself to one discipline (let alone, one school of psychology) in such a way that it could adequately coontain the Gagdad spirit. Or, that would have been the problem, precisely. I would have had to literally I-amputate significant parts of myself in order to fit into this or that narrow discipline.

Thus, if my critics want to say that I am an undisciplined non-scholar, I have no objection. That's sort of the point. As brother Blake once cracked, "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's." I would much prefer to simply have a creative and "upwardly spiraling" engagement with O than to internalize someone else's (K) about it, (K) that always has an expiration date -- unless it is grounded in revelation.

This is why, for example, Christopher Hitchens' latest work of (K) that attempts to contain O will soon disappear like an old People Magazine that the janitors take home at night, while human beings will still be trying to decode the Bible in 1,000 or 10,000 years. Or, if they are not, then it will mean that the Human Being did not survive in a recognousable form -- perhaps bodily, but not spiritually.

After all, it is not less bizarre that revelation should be treasured in 10,000 years than it is treasured today. For someone who has already abdicated his humanness -- his specifically human spirit and human way of engaging O -- he is already mystified as to why anyone would take religion seriously. Of all the miracles associated with Jesus, none is more miraculous than the following: that this gospel will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations. What a completely bizarre, even unsane, thing to suggest! After all, not only did Jesus write nothing down, but he died an anonymous peasant at a time when most men were slaves and the means of transmitting official knowledge was vouchsafed to a chosen few. But then, for this "prediction" to actually come to pass.... mind-boggling.

This is a mystery that is insufficiently appreciated. The secular scholar is at a loss to explain it. Or, like the physicist, he is limited by the "miner's helmet" he uses to examine the evidence. Therefore, since there can by definition be no objective truth to either the ideas of Jesus or the Idea of Jesus, the scholar must essentially rely upon a pathological model of mankind.

In other words, human beings must essentially be crazy for such ideas to spread like wildfire. But as Schuon pointed out on a number of occasions, if human beings are so fundamentally crazy or stupid that even their greatest minds of the past could not tell the difference between fantasy and reality, then there is no compelling reason to believe that human beings should now be so wise that they can accurately pronounce on the nature of reality. In short, they would still be too stupid and crazy.

The most efficient way to dismiss my views is to simply say, that Coon is crazy -- which, of course, has been said of those far greater than I. In fact, reader Zi gave voice to this view just the other day: whatever I write, it is simply "Bob's pathology, and he should not suggest that others share it.... Bob worships his own psychopathology, which is fine, but just don't pretend that others should."

I am loathe to offer an invitation to a troll, but perhaps Zi could flesh this idea out a bit, i.e., define exactly what he means by "pathology," and explain why anyone would be motivated to "worship" it. Perhaps he doesn't realize it, but my book does give an account of how and why this can and does happen. But it does not prove that there is not an object worthy of worship, any more than a pervert who likes having sex with shoes proves that coonjugal love is pathological.

Now, where was I. Yes, the idea that we are human beings and that there is a realm of knowledge that is specifically applicable to that privileged station. In other words, we are not merely matter, so that no theory of physics can account for us or speak to our true inner nature. Nor can any theory of biology, including natural selection -- regardless of its undoubted truth in its own domain -- account for, or speak to, the human Center.

No. Only spiritual truths of one form or another speak to this human center. No one really argues otherwise, only over the ontological status of the truths and the part of us to which these deeper truths are intelligible. To cite just one obvious example, you will often notice that for the secularized person, they become preoccupied with culture in general and "art" in particular. It is a banality to point out that some time ago, the museum became the new church for secularized sophisticates.

But unless art is rooted in transcendent reality, it will eventually become -- as we have seen -- a monstrosity. In accordance with the Fall, it will simply "slide downhill" 32 feet per second per second, toward something that is less than man, properly so-called. Here is a fine example, linked to Drudge the other day. Remember, this is Art:

Hmm, sorry about that. Not exactly Madonna With Child, but definitely Child of Madonna. You will notice that it doesn't even really show anything, and yet, it is nevertheless pornographic.

As it so happens, as I have mentioned before, my father-in-law is a vociferous anti-theist in the manner of Christopher Hitchens. However, it is also possible that he is the most cultured man I know. Having lived most of his life in Manhattan, when he retired to Florida, he found the absence of culture intolerable, so he did something about it. He founded the Sarasota Film Society in order to bring quality films and various artistic events to the area. If I am not mistaken, it grew into the most successful venture of its kind in the entire country.

I have always been struck by the inherent contradiction of loving and needing transcendence -- i.e., art -- while denying its possibility. If there is such a thing as "quality" art, where does this quality reside? Merely in good technical execution, as my father-in-law has argued when pressed? Or merely in telling an entertaining story? I once told him that if he were truly what he thinks he is, then he would simply run porno films and not be concerned with this fanciful thing called "art."

But whether he likes the idea or not -- and he doesn't -- he is an irreducibly spiritual man with spiritual needs. These needs cannot be reduced to anything else, e.g., Darwinian "sexual selection," which essentially promulgates the theory that the real reason for art is to get chicks. Yes, there is an undeniable element of truth to this, but to suggest that this is the "whole truth" is patently absurd. I don't really care if Van Morrison wrote Astral Weeks to impress Janet Planet. I only care that his music was central in speaking to and even "awakening" a dormant part of myself -- an explicitly spiritual part (although the word "part" is misleading).

Now, back to scripture and revelation, which is either a result of pathology or an elaborate way to get chicks. Or, it is a theurgent memorandum from ourSelf to ourself, designed for that purpose. To be continued.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

On Doing Detention in the Divine Principle's Office

Why don't we begin with an outline of Schuon's metaphysics -- which he obviously believed to be universal -- and then show how the early fathers nailed it in every particular. In so doing, we can further understand the proper relationship between science and theology, and show how there can be no possible conflict between the two, that is, unless science begins pronouncing on things that are strictly outside its purview or if it transgresses certain bounds that violate the dignity of man -- in other words, if a method available to man, because he is man, undermines man as such.

In his Survey of Metaphysics and Esoterism, Schuon affirms the following principle:

"In metaphysics, it is necessary to start from the idea that the Supreme Reality is absolute, and that being absolute it is infinite. That is absolute which allows of no augmentation or diminution, or of no repetition or division; it is therefore that which is at once solely itself and totally itself. And that is infinite which is not determined by any limiting factor and therefore does not end at any boundary; it is in the first place Potentiality or Possibility as such, and ipso facto the Possibility of things, hence Virtuality. Without All-Possibility, there would be neither Creator nor creation, neither Maya nor Samsara."

The Absolute is infinite, and vice versa. Considered from the standpoint of space, the Absolute corresponds to the point, while the infinite corresponds to extension. Looked at temporally, the Absolute is the moment, while the infinite is duration, or time unending. Understood numerically, the Absolute is the One, or the principle of unicity, while "the infinite will be the unlimited series of numbers or possible quantities, or totality."

Immediately we understand the paradox of how we may feel in the presence of eternity with the very large or the very small. We can hold it in our hand in a grain of sand, or we can feel it inside a majestic cathedral or while peering into the grand canyon. We can sense it in the passing moment, or while contemplating the 14 billion year panorama of cosmic evolution. For

My heart is a centre of infinity,
My body a dot in the soul's vast expanse
A momentless immensity pure and bare,
I stretch to an eternal everywhere
. --Sri Aurobindo

It is also, as we shall see, the secret of how the Word may become flesh, because belief in the Incarnation requires one to ask how such a thing is possible -- in other words, in what kind of cosmos is such an "event" non-problematic? Understood this way, the one-time-only Incarnation goes from being a magical anomaly to a more or less inevitable event in the economy of the Absolute.

Earth was a cradle for the arriving god
And man but a half-dark half-luminous sign
Of the transition of the veiled Divine
--Sri Aurobindo

Schuon goes on to say that the Absolute and Infinite represent "the two fundamental aspects of the Real, that of essentiality and potentiality." In turn, this is "the highest principial prefiguration of the masculine and feminine poles," since man represents the Absolute while Woman represents the Infinite. This undoubtedly sounds overly abstract, but it explains why the task of a man is to love the universal in a particular woman, while the task of a woman is to love the particular in the universal. In other words, men have a tendency to love every woman, while woman have a tendency to love just any man. The purpose of marriage is to reverse this tendency, so that men love a woman instead of womankind, while women love universal manhood as embodied in a particular man.

I'm not sure if that made any sense. Let's just say that this explains why Richard Ramirez receives love letters from adoring females, while somewhere a man is bored to death of Jessica Alba. Let's move on.

Returning to Absolute and Infinite, the former corresponds with transcendence, the latter with immanence. As such, paradoxically, there is nothing so distant as God, and yet, nothing so close. There is a kind of transcendence in immanence, and a kind of immanence in transcendence, the archetypal case being the Christ event, which occurred (i.e., was immanent) at a particular point in space and time, and yet, utterly shattered and transcended its spacetime container in every conceivable way.

And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that could be written (John 21:25).

Now, as mentioned yesterday, the first distinction is that between Absolute and relative, or Infinite and finite. The first corresponds to Godhead, ground, or Beyond-Being, the second to the personal God who makes himself known to us and whom in turn we may know. In a certain sense, this is no different than a relationship with any human person. Obviously, you can never actually know or experience what it is like to be another person. As with God, you can know their energies but not their essence. True, the essence is revealed through the energies, but the two are not identical. The latter are simply sparks flying out of an essential center that we cannot even conceive.

And in fact, a moment's introspection will reveal that you too have the same relationship even with yourself. There is an "outward facing" aspect of ourselves that we may know in the form of thought, speech, and feelings. But where do these things come from? Psychoanalysis is one way to try to trace oneself back to the hidden center that organizes our being, but one never reaches the Dreamer Who Dreams the Dream. It is always one step beyond, i.e., transcendent. In the end, our Being is a total mystery, like the infinite Godhead itself. I could no more create one of my dreams than I could paint the Mona Lisa. But the materialism of the scientistic worldview is

Blind to the depths, the occult roots unshown.
The visible hides its base in the unseen;
The invisible guards the truth its symbols mean....
Mind's peering gaze meets only abysses still,
Infinite, wayless, mute, unknowable.
--Sri Aurobindo

This is what in the Coonifesto is meant by the formula O-->k, in that our essential Being is inexhaustible and shatters every container, even though we require certain containers to serve as rungs in the ascension of Being back to its source -- which is not just the "human journey" but the cosmic pilgrimage, or Adventure of Consciousness as such. This, as we shall see, is the purpose of revelation, which represents the quintessence of a type of communication in which the transcendent is immanent. Scripture is a kind of "infinite speech" with which we may think productively about eternity -- a limit that vaults us into the limitless. And

I passed into a lucent still abode
And saw as in a mirror crystalline
An ancient force ascending surpentine
The unhasting spirals of the aeonic road.
--Sri Aurobindo

Now, if the first distinction is that between Infinite and finite, the second distinction is that between God and world, or Principle and Manifestation -- the Absolute as reflected in relativity. This is why existence is not absurd, and why meaning is everywhere. Or, if we do encounter meaninglessness, we experience it as a lack, or an absence -- something derivative, or parasitic, not something that flows from the Sovereign Good.

This is why even a nihilist nevertheless defines himself in terms of meaning, or the atheist in terms of God. After all, the a-theist is specifically lacking God. If he weren't, he wouldn't define himself as an atheist. As such, doctrinaire atheism is just an inverted way to be preoccupied with the eternal and the Absolute. For the most part, their atheism constrains them and keeps them out of trouble, whereas a true a-theist is always a monster -- Hitler, or Stalin, or Arafat, or Castro. Each of these men were truly "black holes" of satanic meaninglessness.

Conversely, referring back to Christ, he would have to represent the "meaning of meaning," or perhaps meaning-beyond-meaning (if you are Jewish, you may think of Torah in this way). The meaning of Christ or Torah is inexhaustible, just as the meaninglessness of a Hitler or Stalin is inconceivable.

Running out of time here. Let us put in a word for Mothers, for the Divine Mother whose bountiful love is infinite and inexhaustible, who is indeed the feminine aspect of God made flesh. God's love rains down vertically, but we could not know it without the infinite grace first bestowed upon us by those horizontal emissaries of Divine love known as mothers. For

There is nothing which is more necessary and more precious in the experience of human childhood than parental love.... nothing more precious, because the parental love experienced in childhood is moral capital for the whole of life.... It is so precious, this experience, that it renders us capable of elevating ourselves to more sublime things--even divine things. It is thanks to the experience of parental love that our soul is capable of raising itself to the love of God. --Meditations on the Tarot

Songs about mamas -- grandmamas, absent mamas, loving mamas, wise mamas, late mamas, sad mamas, hot mamas, and TV mamas with a big wide screen: